The forecast was for rain starting at 9:00 am and getting harder as the day went on. Breakfast was not served until 8:00 am so there wasn’t going to be much riding done before the rain started. I was ready to roll at 8:55 Am and had decided that I was heading straight down the highway to John O Groats. This would cut 3.5 miles (5 kms) off the official route which took a few back roads and paths and shaved 280 ft (85 m) climb off the official climb of 905 m. With heavy rain, temperatures of only 13C and winds gusting to 20 mph (32kms) as a quartering head wind every mile was going to be precious.
Right out of the chute we hit the first of five big climbs of 3.2 miles (5kms) and 550 ft (170 m). At exactly 9:02 the rain started but I wasn’t putting my rain coat on until I got to the summit. I probably should have stopped a little earlier but I knew that long before I got to John O Groats I would be soaked and frozen any way and getting the first big hill out of the way without a rain coat was the way to go. My twisted foot/ankle from the other day was a problem in that I could not put any down force on the right pedal. I could pull up but could not push down as this was too painful. It was a significant handicap in the hills and only got worse as the day progressed. At one point I had to stop and could not pull my foot free of the clip.
First hill down and four to go and the rain has increased significantly. There was so much water on the road that at times I was riding through water flowing 2 inches (5 cm) deep across the road. The big hills are all in the first 30 miles (48 kms), so the strategy is to just go for it. By time I get to the 30 mile mark (48 kms), everything is soaked and stopping would only have resulted in freezing so I blew through lunch and headed for John O Groats with only 21 miles (34 kms) to go. With less than a mile to go Agnes passes me and pulls into the John O Groats ferry terminal which is the official end of the road. Agnes and I sit in the van until Jos and Patrick show up a few minutes later.
A few pictures in front of the John O Groats sign post, a quick change into dry clothing and into the van. Jos buys a half price tartan tam in the souvenir shop which looks crazy but he pulls it off. We spray the bikes with cleaner and let the rain clean the bikes as we drive.
We were driving down to Invar Gordon where we are staying in an old Manse, built in 1730 and has been converted into a luxury B&B. It is pretty deluxe.
Tomorrow is a big drive day into Cambridge where we are staying in condo for two R&R days before flying home. Patrick and I plan on sleeping in the back of the van.
Today was a pretty hard day in the rain with 51 miles (82kms) and 2700 ft (822 meters) of climb but everyone pulled it off and had a lot of fun. Today will go down in the annals of biking legend (and no smart remarks about legend in his own mind).